Colorado Avalanche: 5 Players Who Must Work Together in Erik Johnson’s Absence

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 18: Erik Johnson
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 18: Erik Johnson /
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The Colorado Avalanche’s Nikita Zadorov brings down the St. Louis Blues’ Paul Stastny in the first period on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The Blues won, 3-1. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images) /

Nikita Zadorov, Ice Time and Physicality

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov is the closest one-to-one “replacement” for Erik Johnson. That’s asking a lot of our wild stallion, but it’s what we have.

I’d say that Johnson being out is Zadorov’s chance to prove he can get past his immature tendencies — taking bad penalties, getting out of position to make a big hit — and be a true top pairing defenseman.

Zadorov should see a lot of ice time. True, Barrie and Barrie’s partner, Patrik Nemeth, got more ice time than Zadorov. However, as he proves his more mature play, the team should start to rely on him more and more.

One way he can dominate is with his physical play. It’s a natural part of his game, maybe even more so than with Johnson. The key is to avoid getting out of position and incurring penalties.

Next: Johnson Aims to be a Mentor

As you can see, it’ll take a village to “replace” Erik Johnson. As we saw in last night’s game, defense is somewhat optional without Big EJ in the lineup.

The Colorado Avalanche are going to need all their players to step up a notch to make up for Johnson’s loss if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.